Thursday, May 25, 2017

Coexistence: A Cop Out

A Terrifying Concept


I have always loathed this bumper sticker, for a while I couldn't put my finger on why.    I actually enjoy talking with people of other faiths, or even those with no faith at all.   I learn about people, our world, and myriad of other things by engaging my neighbors with a different take on things than I have.   I have participated in interfaith dialogues, worship services and mission initiatives,  I have read about and often researched religions different than my own including Judaism, Islam and Buddhism.  In this effort, I have found things to admire and things that I am not comfortable in every religion I have read about.   Each religion also has it's painful history as do those attempts to build atheistic societies.  I continually find evidence that we are all good and bad mixed up,  so why can't I just follow the herd, slap a sticker on my car and simply coexist?

The short answer is: I am a follower of Jesus Christ and that means coexistence is never enough.  My problem with the sentiment behind coexistence is its passivity.   Coexistence is an apathetic concept however you look at it,  morally, politically, sociologically, and biologically.  By apathetic I am using the concept as expressed by the 20th century Japanese Christian Theologian Kosuke Koyama.  He describes apathy in relational terms as refusing to connect to the other.  So when I coexist, I go about my day and walk right by you, ignore, avoid, or even hide from you.  What happens to you is not my concern.   It is the logical extension of the 20th century heresy "I'm Ok, you're Ok."

The Story of Jesus Christ is all about connecting to the other.   God wanted to connect to the world, so God became incarnate in Jesus to live with, walk with, eat with, laugh with, cry with and ultimately suffer with and for humanity. Koyama will describe this idea of connecting as "passionate." Koyama will not limit this concept to mere enthusiasm, but take it to its biblical roots.   To be passionate means specifically to love your neighbor enough to suffer for her, it means to risk pain for his well being.

To coexist literally means to simply exist alongside others.  It is deaf to the call of Justice.  In biblical terms love and justice are basically the same thing.  So in the late 1930's lots of Christian Germans coexisted with their Jewish neighbors as they were rounded up in the middle of night, packed in boxcars, separated from their families, and taken away to die.  Perhaps these people who embraced coexistence were not guilty of crimes that could be prosecuted in a court of law but they were devoid of love, which is even more terrifying.


The More Excellent Way

The only way will ever improve the quality of life in our communities is if we connect and engage with our neighbors.   We will need to take interest in our neighbors.   We will need to laugh with, cry with, walk with, eat with, have awkward moments with, and ultimately suffer with our neighbors who are radically different from us, religiously, ethnically, politically and culturally.   We are to become incarnational in our communities and passionate about our neighbors they way the good Lord has done for us.   We are called to be passionate toward our neighbor and that means relating with them, learning from them, sharing with them, and ultimately watching out for their well being as if it were our own.   The biblical word for this is Love.  It is both a virtue and a command.   The more we are able love the healthier we will all be.

In biology there is the concept of symbiosis.   This explains how separate organisms actually thrive and grow better when connected.   Ecosystems with high degrees of symbiosis are more healthy, resilient, and thriving then where organisms simply coexist.  So Christ's call to love is not only about improving the lives of others, by loving others we tend to our own well being.  

The allure of coexistence and its sister concept "tolerance" is that it seems so easy.  We will avoid pain by not bothering with the other and can salve our consciences that we are not causing the problems of the world.  However our spiritual procrastination will only allow the the divisive elements of our contemporary way of life to continue to infest our families, communities, nation and world.  In answer this problem Christ calls us to seek the narrow door and the harder road so that we can move beyond coexistence into compassion.   Our spiritual journey will then follow the course set by Christ who came to bring love to the world.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht

Thursday, May 4, 2017

When God Gets in the Way

The Dream of Babel 

Recently I while in prayer I was thinking about some dreams that I held when I was younger that didn't pan out the way I had hoped.  These were both personal and professional; for some of them, I worked hard and dedicated myself diligently to bring them to fruition.  However, as I reflected on the family, friends, and life situation I actually have today, I thanked God that these dreams were dashed. The implications of their fulfillment would have been disastrous for me and those I love. By standing in the way of my dreams God actually saved me.

Normally, we don't like to think about God this way.   Many times we pray for God to give us the things we ask for.  We hope for the god who will give us what we want and we think it will be for the best, but this god as candyman theology may not work out so well in the end.

Provocatively, the Bible also shows us that this God who stands in the way, deals not only with our individual wants, but also the collective wishes of our culture.   In Genesis 11, creation is just getting back on track after the flood and the people gather in Mesopotamia to say “Come, let us build ourselves a city, and a tower with its top in the heavens, and let us make a name for ourselves; otherwise we shall be scattered abroad upon the face of the whole earth.” (Genesis 11:4 NRSV)

With all due respect to my Sunday School teacher back in the day, the problem with the dream of Babel really wasn't that the tower would reach heaven.  There are actually two problems revealed in the text.   The first is the self promotion "make a name for ourselves" the second is the fear of being scattered upon the earth.  I know that it might be hard for us to see these as problems at first, one may ask what is wrong with making a name for oneself?   Or, shouldn't we try to keep everyone together?

Perhaps some of the excesses in our culture can help us see the problem with our dreams of Babel.   In our current age, self-promotion is regarded as a crowning virtue, our political leaders,business executives, celebrities and sadly even some church leaders who we look up to embrace these values. However the extreme cost of self promotion lies at the heart of many of our ills.   Our leaders in government, business and society can often put their privilege before their responsibilities of service to others.  There are those who use their positions in government or business to create systems that are self-perpetuating and do nothing for society at large.

The left fears inequality and the right fears moral decline, but both are driven by the engine of self promotion. Consider the teenager trying to be cool and get more likes on whatever social media platform is hip these days.   They may be willing to risk bodily injury, sexual humiliation, or emotional shame to be popular.  Others will indeed look to perpetuate these evils on thier peers to show how worthy they are of clicks, likes, and attention, thus the vulnerable are exploited for the amusement of the cruel.

The second problem of Babel, the fear of being scattered upon the earth, actually contradicts God's command at creation and after the flood, where people are called to fill the earth. It manifests itself today in the suppression of genuine diversity.   By this I do not mean the pop-liberalism of the Pepsi generation but the actual hard work of working toward the dignity of those who are genuinely different than us.  The dream of Babel, of everyone speaking the same language, working on only one goal to say "hey we're great" is actually the nightmare of the monoculture.  Biologists will tell you that the weakest ecosystems are those that are monocultural. They have little resilience and are prey to disease and even slight environmental changes.  

No wonder God looked down at Babel and said  “Look, they are one people, and they have all one language; and this is only the beginning of what they will do; nothing that they propose to do will now be impossible for them. (Genesis 11:6 NRSV) So God confuses the languages thus multiplying them.   This creates a diversity of humanity that is able then to multiply and fill the earth.  God stops the dream of Babel dead in it's tracks for the good of all. Humanity is richer, more resilient, and a heck of a lot more interesting.

The Promise of Abraham 

In the narrative of Genesis, the tower of Babel shows how human sin will continue its destructive path thorugh history unless God intervenes. It is the final universal origin story. It sets up God's salvation plan for all which begins in the very next chapter with God focusing on a particular family, the family of Abraham. We read in Genesis 12:3 "I will bless those who bless you... and in you all the families of the earth shall be blessed.” (NRSV)

The contrasts with the dream of Babel are informative.   Abraham will be made great by God, he will not do it alone.  His greatness will not be an end in itself but given in order that others may be blessed.  God will work his plan through Abraham's and his descendant's failures perhaps even more than their successes.  What God prevents will be as important as what God empowers. Abraham will mess up often but still walk with God.  It communicates this simple truth; who we really are is not defined by ourselves alone, it is also defined by who we are in relationship with.  It is God's work through Abraham that will create the blessing.   Genesis demonstrates futility of self-promotion at Babel with the fruitfulness and blessing of God-promotion through the life of Abraham and his family.  

It is a call for all of us to tend to our relationship with God and resist the temptation of trying to go it alone.  The Apostle Paul would write in Romans 4:16 "For this reason it depends on faith, in order that the promise may rest on grace and be guaranteed to all his descendants, not only to the adherents of the law but also to those who share the faith of Abraham, for he is the father of all of us, (NRSV) The Bible teaches us that those who we walk with are more important than our dreams and fantasies and that if we walk with God and those God put in our life well, we too will be blessed.

Keep the Faith,
Pastor Knecht


Thursday, March 30, 2017

Serving Christ in Polarized Times

It is a sad fact that often the church can become bogged down in the political movements of the times.   The reason for this is certain, churches are made up of people and people are political animals.   One recent trend reported by sociologist Robert Putnam is that when there is a conflict between one's politics and the teaching of their religious community, most people will resolve the tension in favor of their political views.  They will leave their congregation and find one where their personal political views can be affirmed.

As one who loves theology and talking about the faith, the fact that for this generation, politics seems to trump theology is distressing.   Yet, looking at how people are coming together these days it is not surprising.   We are all retreating into our bubbles where we all agree that the problems of world are someone else's fault.   There seem to be few of us who want to learn why do other people think differently than us.   Everyone seems to want to talk, prove and sell their point; few want to listen, learn, and change.   Don't get me wrong there are people doing this but they seem not get much press.

Some will advocate that the church follow a hands off rule and never speak of politics ever and attempt to spiritualize everything.  While I certainly understand the impulse, there are two problems with this.   The first is a very practical one, by not speaking up one affirms the status quo.   Now this certainly alright if the status quo is something you feel God is calling you to help maintain.   However, if it comes merely from a wish to avoid any of the hard work of dialog or difficult conversation, one may be actually shut oneself off from where God is calling us all to be.

The second problem is that we are confessing that the Word of God has nothing to say about politics right or wrong.  This reasoning ultimately confesses that God is about the world to come and not about the world we live in now.   This is not what Scripture teaches us,  God's Word speaks to our lives now, it has something to say about our world today. So how do we navigate these polarized times? We do what we always do; look to Jesus.

Historians know that the lists of the names of Jesus's disciples reveal a diverse group of people who likely held opposing political views.  Judas Iscariot and Simon the Zealot may have been part of groups seeking the violent overthrow of the Roman occupation.  Matthew was a tax collector working to uphold same said Romans.  Phillip had a Greek name so may have been from a cultural accommodationist family.  Johanna the wife of one Herod Antipas' (a Roman puppet ruler) court functionaries helped provide resources for Jesus's ministry in Galilee.  Peter Andrew, James & John were working class fishermen. What brought this diverse group of people together was Jesus and the promise that the kingdom was near.

As we enter into Holy Week and read the accounts of Jesus' last days politics are everywhere in texts. The council wants to get rid of Jesus out of fear of the crowd on one hand, and the Romans on the other.  The Roman governor wants to appease the mob at their town hall meeting.  The Pharisees and the Sadducees try to make Jesus a pawn in their fight for supremacy over each other.   Jesus ends up rising above their pathetic petty power plays to reveal the truth about the love of God.

When Jesus enters into Jerusalem he is at first hailed as a political messiah and then condemned as a political sacrifice to appease the Romans, with an ironic political insult nailed on a sign above his head. But notice how many people Jesus ministers too along the way.  He teaches in the temple about the true nature of God,  he reminds the disciples on the last supper they will never be alone.  He heals the ear of a man sent to arrest him,  he makes sure John and his mother Mary have each other to rely on.

Jesus calls us not so much to rise above human politics as to move beyond them with love.  The heart of the witness Christ is to help reconcile our relationships with God and each other.    This politics can never do, because in the end it will be all about a competition for resources, power, or fame.   In the end we serve Christ in polarized times by holding to proper priorities.   We hold to our relationship with God in prayer, we show love to those who differ from us, and we work to protect the vulnerable.   This can be done by conservatives, as well as liberals, progressives, and libertarians.

As a pastor I can only advise that if your politics are grounded in prayer, thoughtfulness, respect for others, and love, it doesn't matter so much where you come out.  It is the process the counts.   If we have healthy ways of discernment, we can hold together a diversity of political views and identities under the Lordship of Jesus Christ.   The reason for this is if we are connected to Christ we will be humble, because Christ is humble.   If we are humble then we are open,  and if we are open, we may see the solutions God has for us staring us right in the face.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht



Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Better than Fairness: Mercy

That's not Fair! 

For all kinds of reasons, when you have children in your house you will undoubtedly hear the phrase "It's not fair!"  Some of the time this phrase is directed at you as the parent, sometimes at teachers, fellow students, and yes like their parents they will take umbrage at some story going on in the wider world. Generally somewhere in the exchange between the parties in the debate a second phrase will follow "life is not fair!"

This is indeed true; human history has a catalogue of unfair events that will never, and can never be righted.  However, the reason for pointing this out is usually not to inform people of some wider existential truth, it is to cut off debate so that the complaining party will get back to doing what they are supposed to do in your eyes.  This common pattern happens in families, churches, towns, schools and yes even nations. Human beings seem to come prepackaged with an innate sense fairness for things we care about, while at the same time an unflappable ability to dismiss the complaints of our neighbors and even loved ones about things if it in any way inconvenience us.

Is God Fair? 

The Bible is quite ambiguous about the concept of fairness. In the Torah fairness for all in the community is repeatedly affirmed.  God will even appeal to Israel's sense of fairness when asking them to do good things.  We read in Leviticus 19:33-34 "When an alien resides with you in your land, you shall not oppress the alien. The alien who resides with you shall be to you as the citizen among you; you shall love the alien as yourself, for you were aliens in the land of Egypt: I am the Lord your God." (NRSV)   Paul will also appeal to a sense of fairness when asking the churches he supervises to change their ways perhaps most infamously in 2 Thessalonians 3:10 "For even when we were with you, we gave you this command: Anyone unwilling to work should not eat. "(NRSV).

However the Bible will often teach that some things are more important than fairness.   When Paul talks about his own story, he tells of the wrong he did in Galatians 1:13 "You have heard, no doubt, of my earlier life in Judaism. I was violently persecuting the church of God and was trying to destroy it. (NRSV) Yet he will say with confidence in Galatians 1:15-16 "But when God, who had set me apart before I was born and called me through his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son to me," (NRSV) Paul was not treated fairly; he was given grace.  He was treated better than he deserved and given the gift of being accepted by a forgiving and loving God. 

That fairness is not always the most important thing in life, may be best demonstrated how Jesus responds to the foreign widow who comes to him to have her daughter healed in Mark 7:27-29 (Jesus) said to her, “Let the children be fed first, for it is not fair to take the children’s food and throw it to the dogs.”But she answered him, “Sir, even the dogs under the table eat the children’s crumbs.” Then he said to her, “For saying that, you may go—the demon has left your daughter (NRSV)   The woman's trust in the goodness of God makes all claims of fairness irrelevant.   As James the Brother of our Lord would later write in James 2:13 "mercy triumphs over judgment". (NRSV)

Better than Fairness: Mercy 

When Christ calls us to love others he is not calling us to treat people fairly;  he is asking us to be better than fair.   He is calling us to show mercy love and grace, just as he has done for us.  Jesus says in Matthew 5:46-48  For if you love those who love you, what reward do you have? Do not even the tax collectors do the same? And if you greet only your brothers and sisters, what more are you doing than others? Do not even the Gentiles do the same? Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect. (NRSV)

Over my 20+ years of ministry I have advocated that we as the church help those excluded by society for example, the homeless, immigrants and refugees.  Sometimes people have pushed back and told me it was not fair.   That may or may not be the case, but my point is that fairness is not the point.  We show mercy to others because God has showed mercy to us through his son Jesus.  I can only say that if I got what I deserved, I would not be blessed, but cursed.   I have been saved by grace, so I hope to be a person of grace.   My confession to you it that my results are mixed,  I have not achieved the perfection Jesus has called me to and that is why I will still need God's mercy each and every day.  If God was just fair, than I would have no hope.  I have hope because God is better than fair, he is merciful. 

Be blessed 
Pastor Knecht 

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

The Test of Our Faith: Compassion

The Matthew 25 Pledge

I recently posted these words on all my social media platforms: "No demonizing, condemning or spreading ridiculous posts! I pledge to defend vulnerable people in the name of Jesus."  This is pledge right out of the words of Matthew 25.  "Then (the king) will answer them, ‘Truly I tell you, just as you did not do it to one of the least of these, you did not do it to me.’ ( Matthew 25:45 NRSV) The pledge is part of a national movement led by well known Christian leader Jim Wallis.

Normally my non-conformist streak leads me to be cautious about signing on to such things.   It was encouraging to see friends who espouse both conservative and liberal views respond favorably. This one however should be a no-brainer, because it conforms directly to the teaching of Christ in the Bible.   Honestly, I pray that the Spirit can give me the strength to live up to this pledge, because if we take the words of Mathew 25 at face value they are nothing less than the supreme test of our faith.

A Clear Message

It is not my place to figure out whether or not any one of us measures up, however it is my calling to remind you of what the standard set by Jesus actually is: it is quite clear: for I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me something to drink, I was a stranger and you welcomed me, I was naked and you gave me clothing, I was sick and you took care of me, I was in prison and you visited me.’ (Matthew 25:35-36 NRSV) Compassion that leads to physical and tangible acts of assistance to the vulnerable and rejected is the norm for expressing our faith.

I remember in college I had a professor who would actually give out the previous year's test.  The questions on the current test would be different, but the methodology of how to answer them would be the same.  The instructor wanted us to learn how to use the tools he taught to solve the problems.  I believe this is exactly what Jesus is doing with Matthew 25. He is giving us the test not so that we have ready made answers to pass on, but so that we can learn a methodology of discipleship.  More importantly he is giving a roadmap to us about where we can find God.  We find God by helping those in need.

What are the Risks?

I will not sugarcoat the reality of compassion based discipleship.  It is risky work.   Dealing with people who are under the types of stresses that Jesus identifies is difficult and can indeed be dangerous.  Many times we cite safety as the reason not to choose compassion.  This is the rationale for the current refugee ban instituted by our President.  How one approaches this risk to our safety must be a decision reached in prayer and discussion with others in our lives. However, Matthew 25 is silent on any exceptions for avoiding risk,  The king merely states if people have welcomed him or not.

It is is part of  the imperative of Jesus that we can find ways that help others that minimize risks to us and those whom we serve.  However, we often misjudge our actual risks because of our instinct for self preservation can betray us in certain situations.   More importantly, we miss seeing the risks of not acting in the ways that Jesus calls us to.   For example imagine a society where no one fed you when you were hungry, no one welcomed you when you were from another place, when you were sick and you were ignored, and when you were incarcerated had no hope of a visit.  I realize that this is an exaggeration, but the point is the less people are willing to reach out in Christ's name to help the vulnerable, the more the risk will increase that any one of us can fall through the cracks.   If you think that this can't happen to you, I would invite you to look at life a little more closely. Avoiding the risk of compassion may also mean impeding our spiritual growth.   My own life experience is that I have seem God profoundly at work in hospital rooms, rehab centers, and service trips,    These experiences give me hope.  No one finds hope by hiding under a bushel basket.

More than Politics.

Compassion based discipleship requires real relationships.  Slacktivism will not cut it.   Merely sharing a post or asking others to solve the problem (the government, church, society) will not stand up to the Matthew 25 test.  We will have to hand out cups of water,  give out clothes, hold the hands of the sick, look the prisoner in the eye, and yes even welcome the stranger no matter how they are classified by our world. (even if all say they are our enemies).  From my reading of scripture it is engagement with others in need that is the key.   The effort matters more than the outcome.   Jesus doesn't say solve hunger, he asks did you feed me?

We know from the book of Acts (chapters 2-4) that the early church lived into this reality.   This was despite being hounded by both the Roman and religious authorities.  Persecution was not an excuse for withdrawing compassion then nor is it now.   If it were, then Christ would not have died for us.

Be blessed
Pastor Knecht




Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Tragedy and Promise

The Story of Jesus can show us that what may seem chaotic, dangerous and scary to us can actually be a part God’s plan to bring about hope for the world.   This theme is evident in Matthew’s accounts of Jesus’ early years.  We learn that the Magi (or wise men) who scan the stars for signs of divine activity on earth, are in search of a newborn King and are on their way to Bethlehem where Jesus is.  Tragically their journey alerts the paranoid old king Herod, who as he approaches death, sees plots and conspiracies to overthrow him behind every random occurrence.   He used what he gleaned from the wise men to find a focus for his delusional rage. He orders the death of all young boys under two in Bethlehem.   The forces of darkness and sin are trying to derail God’s plan at every opportunity.   Almost completely incomprehensible, is the fact that the collateral damage will be vulnerable and defenseless children.  Mothers and Fathers will suffer the most feared occurrence of parenting, the loss of a child.   The text is clear; this could have been Mary and Joseph.   They and their child Jesus were at risk. 

Yet Matthew’s message is ultimately one of hope.  God is working in the midst of the chaos to bring completion to the story of salvation.    We learn that the Magi when visiting Jesus come with gifts.   Not just any gifts, gifts fit for a king.   Yet these gifts are also portable, and can be taken with them on a journey.   God knows that Jesus may need to be on the move and that the resources will come in handy to provide for his and his family’s survival.    Joseph is warned in a dream to get up and take his family to Egypt and flee Herod.  Egypt would be a relatively safe place as it was outside of Herod’s territory, controlled directly by a Roman governor, had a thriving economy, and there were large communities of Jews already living there for many years.   God’s hand of guidance can be clearly seen protecting and directing the young Jesus.   The gifts from the Magi that fund the trip, the dream to get Joseph moving, a country of sanctuary a reasonable journey away, and a community of fellow countrymen when they arrived, are all just too convenient not to be planned out by God.

We see the hope in the story working on a number of levels.   One is that God is clearly more powerful than all the forces of this world.   God is able to overcome any chaos that world throws at Him.   More importantly for the Christian witness, is that God goes through the chaos of life with us.   The story of the flight to Egypt is sadly not an uncommon one.   People must flee adversity or leave home for opportunity all the time.   There are dangers and tragedies on the way for many migrants and refugees whose stories each and every day are similar to that of Jesus, Mary and Joseph.   What does it mean that we have a Savior who spent time as refugee from violence?  The writer of the book of Hebrews gives us a clue when we read: Because he himself was tested by what he suffered, he is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18 NRSV)”  

Jesus would experience the full range of human experience both good and bad.   We do not have an indifferent Savior, but one who literally and actually knows our pain.  This is what the miracle of the incarnation is all about, that God becomes one of us and accompanies us through the chaos of this world.   This is proven most powerfully at the cross where Jesus suffers the abandonment of all and the painful death on the cross.   Jesus is brought through this death into the resurrection showing us exactly what God will do for those who trust in him, give eternal life.


So the story of Jesus’ escape to Egypt is designed to do two things for us.  The first is to strengthen our faith and build us up so that we can be confident in the loving care of a great and amazing God who is more powerful than anything in all the universe.   The second is to have compassion for our brothers and sisters in the world who suffer today.   Matthew will report towards the end of his Gospel (chapter 25) the teaching of Jesus that says when we serve those in adversity we are helping Jesus himself.  This will be the sole criteria of what a living, active and fruitful faith looks like, or as the apostle John will write in his letter “for those who do not love a brother or sister whom they have seen, cannot love God whom they have not seen.” (1 John 4:20 NRSV) 

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Tis the season to remember the homeless in our area.

What child is this? 

The old Christmas carol goes. The standard answer is given as the song continues is “this is Christ the King”, but if one takes the Christian Scriptures seriously there are other answers. In Luke chapter 2, we learn that Jesus was born in shelter for animals and placed in a feeding trough. This was because in an unimportant town far away from the rich, powerful, and entitled, there was no room for them in the local i
nn. So Luke gives another answer to the question of what child is this? It is a homeless one.

In Matthew chapter 2 we learn another answer to the question of what child is this? Joseph is warned in a dream to take up his young family and flee Bethlehem just in time to escape a political massacre with lots of collateral damage. This is known in church circles as the martyrdom of the innocents. So Matthew answers the question of what child is this? It is a refugee from violence.

Tis the season to remember the homeless in our area. Christmas celebrates the Christian doctrine of incarnation, which simply means that God comes “in the flesh”. What does it mean that God comes inthe flesh as a homeless refugee? It means that by meeting the homeless and the refugee you might just meet God. Centrist Christian teaching is clear; in Mathew chapter 25 we learn that besides worship, prayer and bible study we meet God in serving the homeless. This is because Jesus was homeless.

In our area the Elizabeth Coalition for the Homeless, Family Promise, Home First, and Monarch Housing Associates all work to end homelessness in our neighborhoods. By supporting and partnering with these organizations, you can not only help the homeless, but help your own soul as your work together with others to provide hope for our community.

With the high cost of housing in our area homelessness in Union county continues to be an issue for our families and communities. A minimum wage worker in New Jersey would need to work 108 hours a week to be able to afford a rental apartment in our region. We invite you to be part of the solution for your benefit as well as those we are called to serve.

The Union County Interfaith Coalition is sponsoring a Homeless Sabbath the weekend of December 16-18 where houses of worship of diverse faiths in Union County will offer prayers and raise awareness about the plight of our neighbors who need housing. The Coalition will also observe a homeless memorial vigil on the evening of Wednesday December 21 at Holy Cross Lutheran Church in Springfield.

Please encourage your faith community to participate in these events. For if we remember a homeless family every Christmas eve, we should be able to remember our neighbors who live and work among us every day.